No bard has liv’d since Homer’s days
Without a song in Cupid’s praise,
But never yet could bard or sage
Agree about his equipage —
He rides a dove, in heathen story
In Hindostan, a prating lory:
In Mexico a fox — and here,
An animal with length of ear.
Whate’er his equipage may be
His sting and venom all can see:
All know the symptoms of the fever
But none the patient can deliver.
A Tuscan, learn’d as Magliabechi,
Can with an apt example deck me:
The truant once forgot his duty
And left his book to gaze on beauty.
Pangs he had never felt before
Flew from his caput to his core:
He look’d o’er Boerhaave, mus’d on Galen,
Thought old Hippocrates unfailing;
Compar’d his case, and hop’d to prove it
A tertian ague, or a love fit.
Physicians! where shall mortals seek
A recipe for love in Greek?
One sage prescribes a hemlock salad
Another bids us write a ballad:
Leander swam o’er Hellespont
Or cool’d his flame by thinking on’t —
But Venus is old Ocean’s daughter
And love is seldom drown’d in water
Whence modern wits and bards opine
The elf is soonest drown’d in wine.
Our student mus’d with aching head
Then call’d his page and gravely said
“My faithful Marco, ’tis most fit
From beauty’s spells, to guard my wit
For all men know, tho’ some disguise it,
The less we have, the more we prize it.
Peripatetic sages say
A man in love should walk away;
But modern commentators think
They mean that he should walk to drink;
Both text and comment may be right —
I’ll try the recipe tonight:
But Marco! where the wine is best
Write on the tavern portal — Est!”
The page rode off — the heartburnt swain
Sighed as he look’d — and look’d again
Where frozen spires and columns rise
And Alpine ice-rocks pierce the skies.
“Ah! thus — ” the wailing lover cried,
“Thus beauty spreads her frozen pride;
As vainly and as coldly bright
As spangled spar of chrysolite.
The sun unheeded looks between
Those icy hills’ eternal screen;
Like maiden pride, in cold repose,
They smile, but melt not when he glows.
The wretch who trusts that vestal snow
Shall find a joyless grave below,
A grave unpitied and unblest —
No matter now — I see an Est.”
The wine was old, the waiters spruce
It seem’d the true Falernian juice;
But wits and lovers have a notion
That wisdom is perpetual motion.
Again he walks — but by his side
He sees a beauteous phantom glide;
The moonbeams sparkle like the glance
Of blue-eyed Laura in the dance:
“And must I lose,” the lover cries
“That beaming glance, those sapphire eyes?
No; wherefore should I go beyond
This willow, or this standing pond?
A cool transparent tomb is best —
Not yet‚ I see another Est!”
No tavern on the Alpine way
Boasts purer sherry or jomay —
Our lover tastes and find it fit,
But who knows quantum sufficit?
He thinks again of Laura’s smile
And strives to walk another mile.
“Relentless nymph! Thy tyrant reign
Consumes my heart and wastes my brain,
My sight grows dim, a hollow sound
Floats in mysterious murmurs round
Come Death! Thy leaden hand shall spread
Soft poppies o’er a lover’s head:
I faint, I fall, I breathe no more —
What, are no waiters at the door?
This tavern well deserves a guest —
I see a treble EST EST EST”
They come; with bowls of purple balm
This deathful agony to calm;
Again he lifts his closing eyes,
And sighs and sips, and sips and sighs:
But he who walks and sips too fast
Must fall (asleep or dead) at least.
Our hero strove as heroes should,
And stood erect — or thought he stood;
But fell — let all the Muses weep,
And, shame to Cupid! — fell asleep.
He slept — Childe Harold cannot tell
How soon he woke, or where he fell:
But maidens say his spirit glides
By Montefiesco’s cellar-sides,
Whene’er with broad and foaming flask
The vintner seeks his oldest cask.
Not seldom on Abydos’ coast
He stalks with Selim’s headless ghost,
Or oft, mistaken for a crow,
Sits on that wondrous stone below.
Which would not in the churchyard stay
But chose, like him, to walk away,
While on his grave this attic rhyme
Tells modern swains his fate sublime
“My walk was long — my love was dry,
The wine was strong — and here am I!”
Positive House March 10th